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Lawsuit against Nunavut RCMP claims force losing touch with Inuit

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  • IQALUIT, Nunavut — An Inuit family whose son was shot by RCMP is suing the force over its alleged failure to staff Arctic detachments with officers who can speak with and understand the communities where they are posted.

    It’s the second recent lawsuit to question the relationship between officers and Indigenous northerners. The longtime northern lawyer who represents the family said she fears the RCMP is gradually losing its connection to the people they are supposed to serve.

    “We want to prevent another shooting death of a person in Nunavut,” said David Qamaniq, the father of Kunuk Qamaniq, who died of a gunshot wound after a confrontation with Mounties in Pond Inlet in 2017.

    A statement of claim says the 20-year-old man was grieving the one-year anniversary of his sister’s suicide the afternoon he was shot.

    “Together with his mother he cried for his lost sister,” the statement says. “Kunuk expressed despair and suggested he, too, might commit suicide.”

    His parents became concerned and contacted RCMP when they learned their son had borrowed a rifle to go rabbit hunting and was headed to the community graveyard. David Qamaniq told the officers his son was sober.

    Shortly after, the Qamaniqs were summoned to the community health centre, where they learned their son had been shot by an officer. The young man died shortly after.

    The lawsuit is an attempt to force the RCMP to institute recommendations from several inquests into suicides and police shootings in Nunavut, said Qamaniq.

    “RCMP, I don’t think, have followed the recommendations,” he said.

    The lawsuit alleges Mounties aren’t trained in how to deal with possible suicides. It claims officers don’t speak the language of the people and don’t use the communication tools they have.

    It also refers to “the personal and cultural biases of the officers … both unexpressed and which they had expressed in the community.”

    It accuses the RCMP of failing to recruit Inuktut-speaking officers or  civilian members who could build bridges with local people.

    A statement of defence has not been filed and none of the allegations has been proven. The RCMP did not respond to a call for comment.

    V-Division, which polices Nunavut, boasts fewer and fewer Inuk officers and has three of about 120 in total. The RCMP website says none of its 25 detachments offers services in Inuktut.

    V-Division spokesmen have said they try to prepare southern officers for policing remote Inuit communities. There is a firearm occurrence somewhere in the territory every day and a half.

    “They orient them a little bit — a little bit,” Qamaniq said. “Just the tip of an iceberg. That’s not enough.”

    Anne Crawford, the family’s lawyer, said the force is losing touch with Inuit.

    “Everyone is concerned about the overall relationship between the RCMP and individuals in Nunavut these days,” she said. 

    “I have practised here for a very long time. It seems to be more and more difficult for RCMP officers to get a really good feel for the communities they’re working in.”

    A class-action lawsuit filed in an Edmonton court in December alleges RCMP in the three northern territories regularly assault and abuse Indigenous people.

    The Nunavut legislature has also discussed the problem. In 2015, a report was commissioned into police misconduct. The report was never released.

    A letter that year from Nunavut’s legal-aid service suggested it had information on 30 cases of excessive use of force. The service’s chairwoman has said there were 27 civil cases filed between 2014 and 2017.

    — By Bob Weber in Edmonton. Follow @row1960 on Twitter

    The Canadian Press


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    Ceremonies, vigils planned in Toronto to honour victims of deadly van attack

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  • TORONTO — Ceremonies and vigils are planned today to honour those killed or injured in last year’s deadly van attack in north Toronto.

    The City of Toronto is holding an event at the Mel Lastman Square Amphitheatre at 1:30 p.m. to coincide with the time of the April 23, 2018 incident that left 10 dead and 16 injured.

    In the hours before the ceremony, the city is expected to install temporary signs in the area to commemorate what it has dubbed the “Yonge Street Tragedy” until permanent memorials are created.

    The city says consultations on the memorials will begin this spring.

    Events are also planned elsewhere in the neighbourhood where the attack took place.

    The Willowdale community is hosting a moment of silence, an evening vigil and a free dinner, among other events.

    It is also bringing in trauma counsellors and therapy dogs for those who need support.

    The city was gripped with grief in the wake of the attack and more than $4 million was raised in support of the victims and their families.

    Alek Minassian, 26, is charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.

    He is set to face trial next February. 

    The Canadian Press


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    New commemorative loonie marking ‘progress’ for LGBTQ2 people to be unveiled today

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  • TORONTO — The Royal Canadian Mint is unveiling a new commemorative loonie today meant to mark what it calls a key milestone for lesbian, gay, transgender, queer and two-spirited people in the country.

    The agency says the new one-dollar coin pays tribute to Parliament’s passing of legislation that “initiated the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada.”

    It says the coin, which will be presented in Toronto today, celebrates “50 years of progress for LGBTQ2 Canadians.”

    But historians and advocates are raising concerns about the message behind the new loonie, saying it mistakenly suggests equality has been achieved and largely as a result of the federal government’s actions.

    A group of activists and academics is holding a news conference near the mint’s event today to challenge myths surrounding the 1969 Criminal Code reform.

    York University historian Tom Hooper, who is part of the group, says LGTBTQ people faced continued criminalization over the decades that followed the legal changes.

    He said discrimination against LGBTQ people persists today, noting as examples that trans and queer people of colour still face issues with policing and people with HIV remain subject to criminalization.

    The mint “could have consulted people who have knowledge of this history but they didn’t,” Hooper said, adding he hopes the agency will do so in the future.

    He acknowledged no campaign can compete with roughly three million coins but said the project is at least fuelling a public conversation about LGBTQ history.

    “As a historian, I’m hoping to inform as many people as I can about our history. So in some ways the coin is opening up that opportunity,” he said.

    The mint has said it is largely informed by the Department of Canadian Heritage and its “anniversaries of significance” when it comes to selecting commemorative themes for coins.

    The Canadian Press


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